It wasn’t looking good in the early going, but the Elmwood Giants brought the high school its first-ever football title on Nov. 7.
"Knowing that we’re the first team feels so good," Grade 12 defensive back Brady Welburn said.
After the undefeated West Kildonan Wolverines pounded the ball in for a touchdown on their opening drive and recovered the ensuing onside kick, the Giants found themselves in a tough spot.
But Elmwood, which posted a 5-2 regular season record, rebounded to hold off the explosive Wolverines the rest of the way en route to a 14-7 victory and the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Andy Currie A Division title.
"After they got that onside kick, I was just thinking ‘We have to do something here’," recalled Grade 11 tailback Shaun Neil, who scored the winning touchdown and earned defensive player of the game honours as a linebacker. "Our defence just fought it out, and we got on track."
Though the Giants came out on the wrong end of their meeting with the Wolverines in the regular season, it was only by a 15-14 score — and the Giants didn’t allow a single point in their three following games, bringing them to the championship game at Investors Group Field.
"We thought we had a chance," fourth-year head coach Nathan Falk said. "Even though they were undefeated, we didn’t feel we were too far away from them. We felt it was a 50/50 split. We were confident.
"Defensively, we felt like we could stop them, and we thought that offensively, if we just waited for our opportunities, we would have our chances to score."
Falk was proud to helm the team that brought the school its first-ever football title.
"That made it all the more exciting, because it was the first one," Falk said. "There were lots of alumni that were phoning and congratulating and watching. It was exciting for a lot of people."
Several of the Giants’ core players had stomached the disappointment of losing once already, falling 35-14 to Sisler in the 2011 final.
"Our Grade 12s were a key to winning this year. They really filled that leadership role, that skill role on every level," Falk said.
Welburn said the team got better across the board in the two years that followed, as he saw players and coaches alike settle into a groove in the league.
"Our play-calling really improved," Welburn said. "The schemes and everything we did this year were so much better.
"We fit everything in — the players and their play-style fit together."